On Wednesday, the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to override President Obama's veto of a law that will allow the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed reservations about the new law and said they were open to rewriting it to deal with problems that Obama had warned them about, and then Congress adjourned until after the November election.
McConnell blamed Obama for not warning Congress earlier. "I told the president the other day that this is an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier," he told reporters on Thursday. "It appears as if there may be some unintended ramifications of that and I do think it's worth further discussing." Obama had called McConnell about the bill on Monday, then sent him and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) a warning letter on Tuesday (Reid was the lone senator to vote against the override).
"Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but no one had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I think it was just a ball dropped," McConnell said. "I hate to blame everything on him and I don't; it would have been helpful if we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week."
Senior officials, including CIA director John Brennan, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and Secretary of State John Kerry, had urged Congress not to approve the bill, because, as Obama explained in his Sept. 23 veto statement, it "could encourage foreign governments to act reciprocally and allow their domestic courts to exercise jurisdiction over the United States or U.S. officials — including our men and women in uniform — for allegedly causing injuries overseas via U.S. support to third parties." That was the concern Ryan raised on Thursday.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest rolled his eyes at Congress' "case of rapid-onset buyer's remorse," calling it "an abject embarrassment." "It's hard to take at face value the suggestion that they were unaware of the consequences of their vote, but even if they were, what's true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress," he said: "Ignorance is not an excuse." Peter Weber